Breaking down the plays and situations that led to the giants’ season-opening loss
The long-anticipated return of the New York Giants was marred by a largely uncompetitive football game that ended Sunday in a 27-13 Denver Broncos victory. Six of the Giants’ 13 points were scored on the last play of the game.
It was a disappointing display of football. The offense struggled to sustain drives, and the defense was abysmal in crucial situations. Teddy Bridgewater and Pat Shurmur nickel-and- dimed their way up and down the field; the secondary couldn’t cover long enough to allow the pass rush to materialize, and the Broncos’ offense seemed in sync all game.
There were a lot of mistakes, squandered opportunities, and blame to go around. Neither the offense nor the defense played efficient football. Let’s dive into the five(ish) plays that were important, for one reason or another, in this dispiriting loss to a 2020 5-11 team.
Play (s) 1: Wasted opportunities
This is an impressive throw from Daniel Jones, who took advantage of the Broncos’ aggressiveness. On a third-and-5 from the far-hash, with a clean pocket, Jones was able to step into this pass and heave it from the 22-yard-line across mid-field to the 33-yard-line. He hit Darius Slayton (86) in stride and set the Giants up in good field position. A 6-yard loss on a boundary “touch pass” towards Von Miller and a 2-yard loss by Devontae Bookerset up a third-and-18. This was an early-blown opportunity for the Giants to gain momentum at home.
A few drives later, Jones connected with Sterling Shepard for an impressive touchdown. The following Broncos’ drive charged into the red zone. The Giants led 7-3 at this point, and Big Blue’s defense came up with this opportunistic play. Albert Okwuegbunam (85) allowed Logan Ryan to rip the football from his grasp. Another huge momentum swing for the Giants, who are up and just halted a red zone touchdown with a takeaway. However, the Giants were backed up too far in their end and couldn’t do anything with the turnover, resulting in a three-and-out punt. Denver received the football with 2:25 left in the first half – a chance for the Giants defense to rise and allow the Giants to lead at half-time.
Play(s) 2: Denver scores to end first-half
In seven plays for 57 yards that took only 2 minutes and 12 seconds, the Broncos established a lead they wouldn’t relinquish to close the first half. First, Denver head coach Vic Fangio went for it on fourth-and-2 at the Giants’ 49-yard line. The Broncos converted, then went on to score.
The Giants are in press-man coverage across the board. Courtland Sutton (14) is aligned in the slot on James Bradberry (24). Sutton does a great job releasing inside, using a over the top swat to knock the jam of Bradberry off while dipping his inside shoulder to evade the talented cornerback. He leans into his break slightly and makes an impressive catch before the safety can break the play up. That conversion helped lead to these plays:
These two plays are spliced together. The Broncos run a two-man route concept with the No. 1 receiver beating Bradberry on a circus type of route, while the tight end, or No. 2 receiver, runs an out route. It creates a smash concept. Tim Patrick (81) did an excellent job separating from Bradberry, and he gets the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing play while there are mere seconds left on the clock.
Play (s) 3: Defensive inefficiency
Bridgwater and Shurmur carved up this Patrick Graham defense that utilized a lot of man coverage early. Bridgewater and the receivers did a great job finding voids when the Giants transitioned to a more zone approach. Here are several third-down situations where this Broncos’ offense flat out beat the Giants’ defense:
On a third-and-9, Giants bring the pressure with man coverage on the back-end. Jerry Jeudy’s (10) initial stem is inside off the backside of a stack which forces Darnay Holmes (20) to anticipate and cheat inside. This left Jeudy open in the flat at Sutton creates the rub on Holmes.
This play should never happen. The Giants flush Bridgwater with solid interior pressure, but he escapes, throws across his body, and finds an open K.J. Hamler (1). These are the types of plays that happen that make a unit realize…it’s just not “our” day.
The Giants run zone on this third-and-7. Logan Ryan (23) bites up on an underneath route at the sticks that seemed well covered. He didn’t notice the backside horizontal cross from Jeudy, who ends up making the play but gets hurt in the process.
Denver’s tight ends did a good job within the rhythmic offense of Shurmur and Bridgewater. They were able to take advantage of the Giants’ man covering ability in the short and intermediate parts of the field. Okwuegbunam gets the best of Jabrill Peppers (21) on this drag route that moves the chain in the third-and-6 situation.
Here’s another five-man pressure package with man coverage on the back end. Peppers gets bested by Noah Fant (87), who used a beautiful outside step release to get Peppers momentum and thought process on an outside release.
Hope was starting to quickly fade at this point of the game, but it was still there – it’s only a 10 point affair. However, this third-and-9 conversion helped quell any hope to make this game competitive.
This is a third-and-short situation, and Reggie Ragland (55) gives way too much space to the No. 2 receiver in this zone look. It’s an easy pitch-and-catch for the Broncos in what would be the first of many critical third-down conversions.
It wasn’t just on third down; the Giants capitulated on all three of the Broncos’ fourth-down attempts. We saw one earlier, and then there’s this long gain to Patrick on fourth-and-7. There did appear to be a hold on Dexter Lawrence (97) in the middle, but it was not called. Patrick’s ability to get Adoree Jackson (22) to work over his route leads to an easy break and separation inside.
Bridgewater and Okwuegbunam connect for a fourth-down touchdown even though the Giants forced hesitation, applied pressure, and stopped the initial reads of the quarterback from becoming open. Xavier McKinney (29) can’t locate the quarterback, and Blake Martinez (54) failed to tackle Okwuegbunam – a rare but devastating miss by the stud linebacker.
Play 4: Jones’ fumble
Jones and the Giants were on a 10-play drive, down by 10 points. This drive succeeded after a 16-play Broncos drive that was capped off by Okwuegbunam touchdown on fourth-down. Jones tucks the ball and attempts to get a few extra yards, and the ugly fumbles rear their unfortunate heads again. Jones is turnover-prone; he’s been labeled so, and it sadly materializes on the football field. He can’t be this reckless with the football.
Play 5: Melvin Gordon’s run
The play was too long for my GIF creator, but you get the gist of it. Azeez Ojulari (51) was collapsed into Danny Shelton (75), and the linebackers had to deal with two unabated blockers. Martinez keyed the run towards the outer portion of Ojulari, who conceded too much ground to the tight ends block, creating a lane into daylight. Martinez may have over pursued since several Giants defenders in that area and no one to the boundary side. Poor run execution from this team – something we didn’t see much of last year.